Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thursday's Therapy - Can Trauma Enhance Creativity? ~Douglas Eby

Thursday's Therapy

Can Trauma Enhance Creativity?

~ouglas Eby

~Graphic by "The Social Butterfly"

In addition to all the destructive consequences that may follow traumatic experience, some people say it also has power to encourage creative expression.

The photo is of the late actor Charles Durning (1923–2012) who reportedly appeared in over 200 movies, television shows and plays.
In World War II, he was severely wounded by shrapnel, and also engaged a very young German soldier in hand-to-hand combat.
After killing the boy, Durning said in an article, he “held him in his arms and wept. He said the memories never left him, even when performing, even when he became, however briefly, someone else.”

Can this kind of trauma, which often leads to PTSD, have any positive impact on creative imagination and expression?

In her provocatively titled post Does Trauma Increase Creativity?, Laura K Kerr reports on a study that, she notes, “suggests there may be a connection between creativity and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“Research conducted by Robert Miller and David Johnson revealed PTSD correlates with a greater capacity for symbolic representation, which is necessary for artistic as well as scientific endeavors.”

She explains, “The study compared 56 Vietnam combat veterans with 14 veterans who lacked combat exposure. Originally, Miller and Johnson thought their research would show PTSD diminished a person’s competence with manipulating symbolic material.

When participants of the study were asked to portray and act out an imaginal scene, the researchers said, “The PTSD group when compared to the non-PTSD group were better able to represent the boundary between reality and the role-playing, to immerse themselves in the scene, to enact identifiable characters consistent with their setting, and produce complex and interactive scenes that told a coherent story.”

Kerr adds, 

“Given that PTSD is also characterized by flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive imagery—all symbolic representations of actual events—the results of the study seem supported by what is known about the experience of PTSD: it increases the psyche’s likelihood of generating and interacting with symbolic representations.”

In another post, she writes, 

“Trauma births its own world, one that exists beside the regular, expressed order of things where life stories are normalized, validated, even valorized. In trauma’s otherworldly realm—the imaginal landscape of our minds—travel the fragmented narratives of what transpired, but also of what failed to come about: escape from harm, facing down abusers, regaining a sense of safety.
“Here we find the birthplace of grief, but also creativity, the origins of trauma stories, yet also their erasure, all vying for connection with what can no longer be—or become—now that trauma has claimed its space.”

Laura K Kerr, PhD, is a Mental Health Scholar and psychotherapist with interests in trauma studies and depth psychology.

English: American actor Charles Durning on May...
Durning also commented that acting helped release at least some of the horror he suffered. He is quoted in a New York Times article: “There are many secrets in us, in the depths of our souls, that we don’t want anyone to know about. There’s terror and repulsion in us, the terrible spot that we don’t talk about. That place that no one knows about — horrifying things we keep secret.

“A lot of that (horror) is released through acting.”

From my article Creative People and Trauma.

Actor Meg Ryan has expressed a perspective that many creative people probably share: 

“I don’t think you want to cultivate dramatic and traumatic experiences in your life in order to be an artist. I think that’s all wrong. But you can use them… there’s a redemptive power in your life when you go through hardships.” 

[Los Angeles Times, Oct 5, 2003. Also quoted in my book "The Creative Mind: Identity and Confidence."]

~Graphic by "Death of a Loved One"

Picture: Broken: thanks to ~Jill Compton who shared Words of Wisdom's photo 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wednesday's Woe - Looking for the Dead Among the Living ~Tommy Prince

Wednesday's Woe

Looking for the Dead Among the Living

~Tommy Prince

"Oh yeah, I forget I'm not the person I used to be. Oh yeah, I forget that I'll never be the same!"

Driving along yesterday, I realized there's always that invisible river of grief that always flows underneath the surface of my consciousness…

Putting together several good days in a row of feeling good, it's like it fools my system into thinking, "I can still run and jump as high as I used to! I'm feeling pretty good today." This level of denial of my true reality told on me when I was out running errands amidst my "sense-of-well-being" stupor…

I was approaching a traffic light at an intersection, when I looked directly across the intersection and saw a little red truck just like Merry Katherine's and my first thought was,

"Oh yeah, there she is!!!"

(Six years now, and that terrible reality that she's gone still does not fully register in my being.)

That was my immediate response of delight, which just as quickly crushed me in the opposite direction as my hopes were dashed. My system seems to keep looking for the dead among the living…

At the sepulchre when Mary was seeking our Lord's body, the angel confronted her by saying, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?" 

In contrast, I always seem to be looking for the dead among the living.

My own system betrayed me, and once again I was crushed. It seems I've got to live in this somewhat dissociated state to somehow tolerate the pain of her being gone. But then a trigger arises to startle me back into my reality and I realize, "Oh no! What am I living?! She's really not here, and I won't be 'running into her' ever again!!!"

That reality of my nineteen year old child really being gone is just too stark for a mind and heart to fully take it in…

~Journey of the Survivor (From Grief to Survival)

Graphics, thanks to

~Journey of the Survivor (From Grief to Survival)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tuesday's Trust - The Things Not Seen…

Tuesday's Trust

The Things Not Seen…

"The things which are not seen."
2 Corinthians 4:18

In our Christian pilgrimage it is well, for the most part, to be looking forward. Forward lies the crown, and onward is the goal. Whether it be for hope, for joy, for consolation, or for the inspiring of our love, the future must, after all, be the grand object of the eye of faith

Looking into the future we see 

  • Sin cast out, 
  • The body of sin and death destroyed, 
  • The soul made perfect, and fit to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light. Looking further yet, the believer's enlightened eye can see 
  • Death's river passed, 
  • The gloomy stream forded, and 
  • The hills of light attained on which standeth the celestial City; he seeth himself 
  • Enter within the pearly gates, 
  • Hailed as more than conqueror, 
  • Crowned by the hand of Christ, 
  • Embraced in the arms of Jesus, 
  • Glorified with Him, and 
  • Made to sit together with him on his throne, even as He has overcome and has sat down with the Father on his throne. 
  • The thought of this future may well relieve the darkness of the past and the gloom of the present. 
  • The joys of Heaven will surely compensate for the sorrows of earth. Hush, hush, my doubts! death is but a narrow stream, and thou shalt soon have forded it. 
  • Time, how short--eternity, how long! 
  • Death, how brief--Immortality, how endless! Methinks I even now eat of Eshcol's clusters, and sip of the well which is within the gate. The road is so, so short! I shall soon be there.

"When the world my heart is rending

With its heaviest storm of care,

My glad thoughts to Heaven ascending,

Find a refuge from despair.

Faith's bright vision shall sustain me

Till life's pilgrimage is past;

Fears may vex and troubles pain me,

I shall reach my home at last."

~Charles Spurgeon 
as found in Morning and Evening January 29, Morning
~thanks to Sherri Youngward

(Some capitalizations and highlights, mine)

~Grieving Mother, Ethel Kowal
~Grieving Mother, Kathy Martibello-Stieff
via ~Death of a Loved one

~Grieving Mother, Dani MarieBernadette D'Angelo

Butterfly graphic, thanks to ~Grieving Mother, Dani MarieBernadette D'Angelo

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Monday's Mourning Ministry - Worn ~Tenth Avenue North

Monday's Mourning Ministry


~Tenth Avenue North


~Tenth Avenue North

~Shared with me by 
Grieving Mother, Leslie Nelson Martin 

I'm tired, I'm worn
My heart is heavy
from the work it takes
to keep on breathing

I've made mistakes
I've let my hope fail
My soul feels crushed
by the weight of this world

And I know that You can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left
Let me see
Redemption Win
Let me know
the Struggle Ends
That You can mend a heart
that's frail and torn

I want to know a Song can rise
from the ashes of a broken life
And all that's dead inside
Can be reborn

'Cause I'm worn

I know I need
to lift my eyes up
but I'm too weak
Life just won't let up

And I know that You can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left
Let me see
Redemption Win

Let me know
the Struggle Ends

That You can mend a heart
that's frail and torn

I want to know a Song can rise
from the ashes of a broken life

and all that's dead inside
can be reborn

'Cause I'm worn
my prayers are wearing thin
I'm worn
even before the day begins
Yeah, I'm worn
I've lost my will to fight
I'm worn
so Heaven come and flood my eyes

Let me see
Redemption Win
Let me know
The Struggle Ends
That You can mend a heart
that's frail and torn

I want to know a Song can rise
from the ashes of a broken life
and all that's dead inside
can be reborn

Yes all that's dead inside
Will be reborn

Though I'm worn

Yeah, I'm worn


Then Jesus said, 
"Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
"Take My yoke upon you. Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
"For My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light."

Matthew 11:28-30 (New Living Translation of The Holy Bible)

Jesus proclaimed in Luke 4:17-21 of The New Testament that He had come to this earth to fulfill the prophecy spelled out for us in The Old Testament, in Isaiah 61:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on Me,
because the Lord has anointed Me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

~Isaiah 61:1-3 (New International Version of The Holy Bible)

(Some capitalizations for clarity, mine)

Grief Video:
Video and "Worn" Graphic, thanks to Grieving Mother, Leslie Nelson Martin

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Saturday's Sayings - Progress in the Healing Journey… - Part One

Saturday's Sayings

Progress in the Healing Journey…

Part One

We never really "heal" from Child-Loss Grief and Trauma, but we're always in recovery. We can be in a process of healing, but healing will not completely happen this side of Heaven. 

Amidst our Child-Loss Grief and Trauma, when you think about it, we have been assaulted emotionally, physically, and spiritually! We never really "heal" from Child-Loss Grief and Trauma, but we're always in recovery. We can be in a process of healing, but healing will not completely happen this side of Heaven.

~Angie and Tommy


"The case of a parent losing a child is very special because the most deep-seated protective and nurturant emotions are brutalized. Because this 'injury' is so severe to such primitive emotional processes, the grieving parent is likely to feel and express the pain associated with it for the rest of his or her life."

~Dr Joanne Cacciatore


~Grieving Mother, Robin Craig

We somehow learn to hold the terrible things in abeyance while we accept the beautiful, knowing the two must always co-exist, as life will never be completely beautiful again. And we learn to allow God to put our trust back together, one tiny baby step at a time, always allowing Him to comfort us that we need not be afraid; He is always right beside us, even as He is with our child…

~Angie and Tommy


~The Social Butterfly

We learn that a simple thing like our breathing can get messed up. Remembering to breathe slowly and deeply from the abdomen can often restore some normalcy to our worn out bodies and souls. Breathing deeply can remind our traumatized bodies what it feels like to be "normal" again. Even these very basic functions of our lives (such as breathing) can get disrupted and confused to where many times, we do find ourselves holding our breath, as if by doing so, we could bring back those precious normal days when our child was here with us: 

As if we could, "Stop the breath = Stop the madness!!!" 

When I was standing in the "Receiving Friends" line for my daughter's funeral, I was bemused to hear a Child-Loss Griever tell me, "Just remember to breathe." Now, I understand…

~Angie and Tommy


~Grieving Mother, Darlene Thomas

We learn to accept our new idiosyncrasies… and we even learn to laugh about them!

~Angie and Tommy


~Out of the Ashes

We begin to be so grateful for the depth of our love for our precious child, that we don't mind the necessary depth of grief that must follow!

~Angie and Tommy


Grieving is a personal and highly individual experience. How you grieve depends on many factors, including your personality and coping style, your life experience, your faith, and the nature of the loss. The grieving process takes time. Healing happens gradually; it can't be forced or hurried--and there is no "normal" timetable for grieving. Some people start to feel better in weeks or months. For others, the grieving process is measured in years. Whatever your grief experience, it's important to be patient with yourself and allow the process to naturally unfold.

~Death of a Loved one


We know that with Child-Loss Grief and Trauma, it takes more than months or years; it takes a life-time. As we begin to accept that reality, we begin to become accustomed to and patient with the ebbs and flows of Child-Loss Grief-and-Trauma.

~Angie and Tommy


~Grieving Mother, Dani MarieBernadette D'Angelo

Each of us who has experienced child loss personally knows the feeling of isolation, abandonment, exhaustion, misunderstanding, and pain. We have gone through anguish like none other known to mankind, and yet we're here. We're here because deep within our soul we have a seed of hope that tells us someday we will be united with our child again. We can feel our soul joined to the soul of our child. As broken as we are, we weep, yet we hope. We're in pain, yet we know there will one day be an end to all pain. We cry millions of tears, but we know one day all tears will be dried. And, so in all of our brokenness we cling tightly to hope. May God bless each one who has known this terrible pain of losing a child with an extra measure of hope today!

~Silent Grief - Child Loss Support

Picture, Broken, thanks to "Death of a Loved one"

Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday's Faith - In Child-Loss Grief, What Does Faith Do?

Friday's Faith

In Child-Loss Grief,

What Does Faith Do?

like crazy. 
My heart is 
and broken 
into a million tiny pieces and I can't breathe. 
My heart and soul 
aches for just one more moment. 
I miss your smile, I miss your voice. 
My tears are endless...
I ask God, Why, but he didn't answer. 
What is a new normal? I liked it just the way it was. 
Time passes and I know you are not coming back. 
I hear that time heals but I don't believe it does. 
Time cannot heal a broken heart. Nothing can fill this void. 
Memories and tears flood my mind 
and my eyes with every breath I take. 
I am your Mother always and forever. 
I will always hold sweet memories of you 
for as long as I am breathing. You are my Child. 
Grief. What is Grief? Grief is Love. 
I love you to the moon and back and every where in between. 
Some days I find joy amidst all the pain and sorrow. 
Knowing that in my heart, there will be tomorrow. 
My sweet child, I have faith in our God above, 
and I know I will see you again, it's all about that love. 
Until the day we meet again, 
I will hold you close to my heart, 
knowing that one 
sweet day, 
we'll never be apart.

Thursday's Therapy - How Is Your PostTraumatic Growth?

Thursday's Therapy

How Is Your PostTraumatic Growth?

Managing traumatic stress: Tips for recovering from disasters and other traumatic events

Disasters are often unexpected, sudden and overwhelming. In some cases, there are no outwardly visible signs of physical injury, but there is nonetheless a serious emotional toll. It is common for people who have experienced traumatic situations to have very strong emotional reactions. Understanding normal responses to these abnormal events can aid you in coping effectively with your feelings, thoughts and behaviors, and help you along the path to recovery.

What happens to people after a disaster or other traumatic event?

Shock and denial are typical responses to traumatic events and disasters, especially shortly after the event. Both shock and denial are normal protective reactions.
Shock is a sudden and often intense disturbance of your emotional state that may leave you feeling stunned or dazed. Denial involves not acknowledging that something very stressful has happened, or not experiencing fully the intensity of the event. You may temporarily feel numb or disconnected from life.
As the initial shock subsides, reactions vary from one person to another. The following, however, are normal responses to a traumatic event:
  • Feelings become intense and sometimes are unpredictable. You may become more irritable than usual, and your mood may change back and forth dramatically. You might be especially anxious or nervous, or even become depressed.
  • Thoughts and behavior patterns are affected by the trauma. You might have repeated and vivid memories of the event. These flashbacks may occur for no apparent reason and may lead to physical reactions such as rapid heartbeat or sweating. You may find it difficult to concentrate or make decisions, or become more easily confused. Sleep and eating patterns also may be disrupted.
  • Recurring emotional reactions are common. Anniversaries of the event, such as at one month or one year, can trigger upsetting memories of the traumatic experience. These "triggers" may be accompanied by fears that the stressful event will be repeated.
  • Interpersonal relationships often become strained. Greater conflict, such as more frequent arguments with family members and coworkers, is common. On the other hand, you might become withdrawn and isolated and avoid your usual activities.
  • Physical symptoms may accompany the extreme stress. For example, headaches, nausea and chest pain may result and may require medical attention. Pre-existing medical conditions may worsen due to the stress.

How do people respond differently over time?

It is important for you to realize that there is not one "standard" pattern of reaction to the extreme stress of traumatic experiences. Some people respond immediately, while others have delayed reactions — sometimes months or even years later. Some have adverse effects for a long period of time, while others recover rather quickly.
And reactions can change over time. Some who have suffered from trauma are energized initially by the event to help them with the challenge of coping, only to later become discouraged or depressed.
A number of factors tend to affect the length of time required for recovery, including:
  • The degree of intensity and loss. Events that last longer and pose a greater threat, and where loss of life or substantial loss of property is involved, often take longer to resolve.
  • A person's general ability to cope with emotionally challenging situations. Individuals who have handled other difficult, stressful circumstances well may find it easier to cope with the trauma.
  • Other stressful events preceding the traumatic experience. Individuals faced with other emotionally challenging situations, such as serious health problems or family-related difficulties, may have more intense reactions to the new stressful event and need more time to recover.

How should I help myself and my family?

There are a number of steps you can take to help restore emotional well-being and a sense of control following a disaster or other traumatic experience, including the following:
  • Give yourself time to adjust. Anticipate that this will be a difficult time in your life. Allow yourself to mourn the losses you have experienced. Try to be patient with changes in your emotional state.
  • Ask for support from people who care about you and who will listen and empathize with your situation. But keep in mind that your typical support system may be weakened if those who are close to you also have experienced or witnessed the trauma.
  • Communicate your experience. In whatever ways feel comfortable to you — such as by talking with family or close friends, or keeping a diary.
  • Find out about local support groups that often are available. Such as for those who have suffered from natural disasters or other traumatic events. These can be especially helpful for people with limited personal support systems.
  • Try to find groups led by appropriately trained and experienced professionals. Group discussion can help people realize that other individuals in the same circumstances often have similar reactions and emotions.
  • Engage in healthy behaviors to enhance your ability to cope with excessive stress. Eat well-balanced meals and get plenty of rest. If you experience ongoing difficulties with sleep, you may be able to find some relief through relaxation techniques. Avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Establish or reestablish routines such as eating meals at regular times and following an exercise program. Take some time off from the demands of daily life by pursuing hobbies or other enjoyable activities.
  • Avoid major life decisions such as switching careers or jobs if possible. These activities tend to be highly stressful.

When should I seek professional help?

Some people are able to cope effectively with the emotional and physical demands brought about by traumatic events by using their own support systems. It is not unusual, however, to find that serious problems persist and continue to interfere with daily living. For example, some may feel overwhelming nervousness or lingering sadness that adversely affects job performance and interpersonal relationships.
Individuals with prolonged reactions that disrupt their daily functioning should consult with a trained and experienced mental health professional. Psychologists and other appropriate mental health providers help educate people about normal responses to extreme stress. These professionals work with individuals affected by trauma to help them find constructive ways of dealing with the emotional impact.
With children, continual and aggressive emotional outbursts, serious problems at school, preoccupation with the traumatic event, continued and extreme withdrawal, and other signs of intense anxiety or emotional difficulties all point to the need for professional assistance. A qualified mental health professional can help such children and their parents understand and deal with thoughts, feelings and behaviors that result from trauma.
Updated August 2011

~American Psychological Association

~Graphic, thanks to Grieving Mother, ~Vicki Warrington Davis via ~Just Feelin' Good
PostTraumatic Growth Inventory:

The full text of articles from APA Help Center may be reproduced and distributed for noncommercial purposes with credit given to the American Psychological Association. Any electronic reproductions must link to the original article on the APA Help Center. Any exceptions to this, including excerpting, paraphrasing or reproduction in a commercial work, must be presented in writing to the APA. Images from the APA Help Center may not be reproduced.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wednesday's Woe - Which Is More Cruel? ~Tommy Prince

Wednesday's Woe

Which Is More Cruel?

~Tommy Prince

It's come a time when we need to change out her bedroom…

Which is more cruel?

To leave her belongings out to ever remind you she's not here and each of those items could trigger you, or

To go through her things one by one, touching every item with its reminders of her: how she used them, read them, or wore them, etc. while she was here…with you…when life was normal?

Even if Plan B is the better option, good luck getting it done, and staying in one piece to do it.

Risk ~ if you leave belongings in place and you pass by them, you may or may not get triggered. But boxing her things up, having to touch all of her things guarantees you will get triggered…

Wiping tears and blowing your nose every few minutes slows you down, but you bear with that to get through.

The thing that got me was the high school graduation class tee-shirt with everybody's names on the back, and there was her name along with everybody else's …who are… all... still here…

Monday, January 21, 2013

Tuesday's Trust - My Angel Sang Me to Sleep Last Night ~Angie Bennett Prince

"When you wake up with a song stuck in your head, it means an angel sang you to sleep."

~Denise Baer

Tuesday's Trust

My Angel Sang Me to Sleep Last Night

~Angie Bennett Prince

After a painful night's sleep last night, with a short evening nap preceding that, I realized I had had songs stuck in my head that all brought thoughts of Merry Katherine, and therefore tears along with them in both of these consecutive times of sleep. Then this morning, I discovered this beautiful picture you see above on the Grieving Mothers' Facebook site! So immediately, I was inspired to write the following poem. I wanted to share it with you, my fellow grievers who understand...

My Angel Sang Me to Sleep Last Night

My angel came into my dreams last night
I had whispered her name aloud just before sleep;
She must have whisked by with her wings so light,
Comforting my heart with each loving sweep...

My angel sang me to sleep last night...
Song after song came into my head,
Tears rolling down blurred my sight
As my angel visited me upon my bed.

My angel sang me to sleep last night...
In my dreams, songs were stuck in my head
From both nap time to night time...
My angel revisited, her sweet love so swift to spread.

My angel sang me to sleep last night...
She must have come by to comfort my heart:
It has been nine years today since my daddy died;
It hurts so much when loved ones must part…

My angel sang me to sleep last night...
Tears were surfacing each time when
Each song that came, brought her to mind
As my angel visited again and again.

My angel sang me to sleep last night...
She sensed my loneliness and my hurt,
Met me in my tears with her angel light,
Comforting Mommy with her loving hug…

My angel sang me to sleep last night;
Now I can rest peacefully, hugged so tight...

Picture, thanks to "Grieving Mothers" on Facebook 
Poem - My Angel Sang Me to Sleep Last Night - Angie Bennett Prince - 01/21/2013 (MLK Day)